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LazyGirl
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Looking for pile turning techniques

I like to turn my pile(s) weekly and have been using a pitch fork. I love to do it but I now have three piles going (thanks to neighbors with lots of tree leaves and Starbucks coffee grounds) and all that turning is getting to be more of a chore.

My fiance had a brilliant idea and got the rototiller out to mix up everything, which was fantastic. It all got thoroughly mixed and I piled it back up but somehow felt like I was cheating. :oops:

Does anyone have tips to share for making pile turning easier?

Thanks! :lol:

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CharlieK
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I'm sorry I don't have any ideas but the tiller sounds like a great idea to me. I just have a single pile so it is not really difficult. Is it cheating? A friend once told me "If you're not going to use your head, you may as well have two butts!" :P
I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. Addison

rot
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Lazyness is the father of invention

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I guess a tiller should work nicely. Maybe break up clumps while going at it.

I've seen, heard others use a corkscrew thing made of plastic maybe two feet long. They would screw it into the pile and and then pull it out just like uncorking a bottle. I can't speak to how effective it really is.

I used to turn my piles every weekend. Unless you are trying to get compost as soon as possible, I find it waits. I'm also thinking that after the initial cook off of the high temperatures, it matters less but I don't have any data to support that.

If you miss a week of turning, it's not going anywhere and it's still digesting. The turning provides air.

I tried taking a long pole and from the top driving holes into the bin with only a little success. I think I mostly succeeded in letting the heat escape.

Not a disaster if you turn less frequently.
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Charlie MV
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I'd need a 4 wheel drive tiller.My piles are 5x5x5 feet and in 3 sided bins. I'm afraid it's the fork and rake for me but I do love the tiller idea.

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LazyGirl
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Thanks for the corkscrew idea. I may try that if I can find one. Till then though, I'll continue the pitchfork turning. Luckily it looks like my fiance will be out again with the tiller tomorrow - I'll get him to "turn" the piles again. :D

I do sometimes miss weekends and its good to know that the composting continues.

Regarding the hand turning (pitchfork) methods, I would like to know people's personal techniques. I have been kind of flopping the various layers around, but I imagine a more "efficient" method would be to fork the whole bin out and then break it up and fork it back in. This is more labor intensive but is it work the extra work?

Thanks again!

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Gnome
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LazyGirl,
I would like to know people's personal techniques...I imagine a more "efficient" method would be to fork the whole bin out and then break it up and fork it back in.
That's double the work. If you have two bins, side by side, you can go back and forth between them. I do something similar only with a simple cylinder of chicken wire about 3 Ft in diameter. When the time comes to turn I unhook the cylinder and set it back up next to the pile and turn the compost back into it. Simple, effective and cheap. Still I agree with rot, turning is not essential and I kind of slack off after the first couple of turnings.

Norm

Charlie MV
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I have 4 of those bins I described above. I fork from one bin to the next. When I move it to the fourth bin, it's cooked and garden ready. I start new piles when I yank my garden after each harvest. We harvest in July and September [at least the majority] and run everything through a chipper/shredder. Those piles I have to toss daily for two weeks because they're HOT. I cut back to every other day for about two weeks. I continue adding to the bins the leaves and winter rye we plant over the garden as a cover crop. I looked at the bins today. All of them are heaping over the top and out the front opening. It is a bunch of rich black fine compost.

I'm guessing I have enough to till 6 inches into the 1/4 acre garden this late winter and then put 4 to 6 inches on top after I plant and lay newspaper. We stay pretty weed free and are able to eat like billy goats 12 months a year.

I can also say that the easiest way to turn my pile is to talk my wife into doing it. :lol:

rot
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That's a lot of turning

Charlie MV
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That seems like an awful lot of turning to me. I saw the pictures but just how big are those bins? 30" x 30" x 30"? I think you might want to let them stand a couple of days before turning. Especially with that chain link set up letting all that air through.

I once heard that some university study (imagine some frail middle aged man in a lab coat and heavy glasses holding a folder that says 'University Study' on the cover) that optimal turning was something like 4.5 days. When I was on top of it, I would monitor the temperature and once the temperature started to taper off, I'd turn then.

Just a thought.

Since my wife does everything else, I think I'll suffer the turning of the compost myself. If I can get her to sift it though...
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Charlie MV
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Rot, I' believe you have me confused with someone else. I haven't posted pictures. My bins are made of PVC picket fence. They are 5x5x5... 4 of them in a line. If I don't turn fresh stuff daily, it get's pockets of ash in it. I hose it down as I make the pile and hose it when I toss it. I've seen it cook itself dry over night in the summer.

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LazyGirl
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Everyone - Thanks for the "forking from one bin to the next" idea! It never dawned on me to have a second empty location just for turning the compost pile to. This will really make the job easier... on the weekends that I can't convince hubby to get the tiller out! :D

Since this is my second "batch" of compost I'm still really eager about the whole process and want to make them quickly. I have a whole veggie garden patch waiting on this batch for spring planting!

rot
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That's a lot of work

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Charlie MV

Yeah I'm confused.

Still turning a 5 x 5 x 5 is a lot of work.

I've seen my stuff dry up fast too. Even when I see the water leak out the bottom, I can still find dry parts when I turn. I gotta imagine bins the size you're using would need a hose to water. I'm trying to keep from overwatering and use a watering can.

Keep turning I guess.
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Charlie MV
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Definitely takes a hose and now you see why I like to trick my wife into turning it occasionally. I like it best when it's all cooked and ready to spread. For a few months, it's almost no work at all. :D

rot
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Big bins would be neat but

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I'd like to try big 4 cubed or 5 cubed bins but it would take too long for me to fill I think unless I really worked at it. Then all that turning.

After they stopped me from fishing through the dumpsters behind the supermarket, I kind of gave up on making huge bins at once.

Maybe if I get a line on some horse manure.
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2cents
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pile turning

I understand the confusion here. Perhaps it's the tool your using.

My compost piles ranges from 2 yards to 10 yards of material, depending on year, material available and time of year based on whether I've just purged and put it all into the garden(fall).
Personally, I have a cold pile and some years a hot pile. No matter which it is(my garden is under 1,000 Square feet) I dig trenches in the garden and put leaves down and compost on top of that then replace the original dirt on top. It gets 6 inches to 18 inches of material every year.
This further decomposes over the winter and reduces to under 6 inches in the spring and is gone by end of summer.
It seems like alot of work to my neighbor, but my veggies are always happy.
The more the compost the better.
That is the best technique I know of.

Mine is all spade shovel, I don't bother with the pitch fork, it just confuses me which to use, when I am ready to play in the pile or garden.

We've had two big storms this year, I've brought in 22+/- yards of organic material this year, my leaves were mulched into the yard. Didn't need them for the garden.
Over half of it is in the garden and the piles under the garden look like moguls in a downhill race.

The best technique my wife used was she got a husband who didn't mind doing the work of turning a pile.
A friend of hers told her 15-20 years ago > "marry a man who is good with a shovel, you will always have a good garden."

I hope that helps with your technique issue. :wink:
IMHO

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LazyGirl
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2cents - Great quote! Too bad my hubby is mostly into power tools and I'm the one with the shovel!

One of my tricks is to really struggle with the shovel till he feels sorry for me and then helps out. :wink:

2cents
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Since I was particularly handy with a shovel, my wife has always claimed that is why, "she picked me".
Since she was raised on a farm, she figures she has done her share of diggin'.
But she is a good wholesome cook. Great with fresh veggies. New recipes every year. Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm
IMHO

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